It's All in the Reading: Moving Beyond the False Memory Syndrome Debates

Jane Kilby

in Violence and the Cultural Politics of Trauma

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print April 2007 | ISBN: 9780748618163
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748653041 | DOI:
It's All in the Reading: Moving Beyond the False Memory Syndrome Debates

Show Summary Details


This chapter is based for the first part on a reading of the recovered and false memory syndrome debates that raged through the 1990s, and which arguably encapsulate the methodological challenges facing a contemporary politics of remembering and speaking out. Using a discussion of the response to the publication of Ellen Bass and Laura Davis's The Courage to Heal (1998), a phenomenally successful self-help book for women survivors of incest, it shows show how the controversy caused by the book throws into relief the anxieties generated by an emphasis on radical amnesia and the implications held for thinking radically about the sociality of remembering. Turning away from the reaction provoked by this text in particular, the second part of the chapter deals more closely with the question of how we might read women's contemporary testimony by evaluating the post-structuralist reading offered by Donna J. Young, since at issue is how feminists might read testimonies without reducing them to statements on power. Indeed, given how trauma is understood to evade representation, the question of reading is for many trauma theorists the key question, for just how do you read that which escapes symbolic registration? The answer is that we learn to read for what is not and what cannot be said: namely we learn to listen to the silence left by violence. This may sound hopelessly conceited but it is no more contrived than other strategies for reading trauma testimony, especially those relying on principles of contextualisation. It is further argued that, by necessity, the reading of trauma testimony must be imaginative, playful and to a certain extent irreverent.

Keywords: recovered memory; false memory; amnesia; self-help book; incest survivors; feminists; trauma testimony; violence

Chapter.  9776 words. 

Subjects: Cultural Studies

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.